Sunday, February 06, 2011

Hello and thank you!

My response to my colleague C.C. (An Email from Ohio):

Hello Colleague**,

Sorry, I saw your email when I was doing my weekly spam clean up, it got mixed up there for awhile. Don't worry, my computer will recognize your email from now on.

Thank you for the kind words. I can see just by reading from your email that you are very passionate with what you do. The mere fact that you reached out to me and to other teachers for supports, and that you came across my blog while researching/ surfing the internet for ways how to make it work for your students, speak of how determined you are to succeed so you can better maximize their potential.

Despite our distance we are on the same train; as individuals we are living parallel lives. I am also a mom of two kids, very active in professional communities, trying my best to be a great special education teacher.

Though I may seem so relaxed and comfortable with what I do as a classroom teacher on my blog, I am facing exactly the same issues as other special education teachers/ inclusion specialists across the nation: effectively dealing with discipline problems, dealing with difficult classroom, dealing with difficult co workers, planning effectively, managing time wisely, remaining calm and professional in the face of unnerving situtations, utilizing most effective teaching strategies, accomodating individual differences of my students, engaging students in critical thinking, overwhelmingly larger case loads, very challenging multi-categorical/ mixed disability classrooms, lack of assistive resources to accomodate our kids, list goes on...I try to stay focused on my goals for my kids. I make sure that at the end of the day they have produced something concrete that is aligned to the standards of learning. It is important for me that at the end of the week at least 80% of my students have mastered the standards. It's easy to get drowned in gossips, issues, and politics going around the corridors of the school buildings but I always remind myself that we are here in this job for the kids. In fact, these are the same challenges that remain common for many seasoned teachers throughout their careers.

I have 2 students on alternate assessments and I have alloted our seventh period to just work on their portfolios one-on-one while others are working on the learning centers. I also have an instructional aide who's a wonderful help for me. She assists other teachers for other classes too, but we already sat down in the beginning and talked about the systems that I have in place that we have to follow everyday. I gave her some responsibilities and she makes sure she sticks with it.

Here's some lesson planning resources that our school district use, although you can have something that works better for you and your kids, this is just a suggestion (I use them as a guide). Your local union website may have some professional development supports for you too:

Teaching and Learning Framework
Teaching and Learning Framework - Resource Pages
Teaching and Learning Framework - Training Presentations - Day 1
Teaching and Learning Framework - Training Presentations - Day 2
Teaching and Learning Framework - Training Presentations - Day 3
Chancellor’s Letter Introducing the Teaching and Learning Framework
Sample Behavior Management Plan Template
Sample Lesson Planning Document
Sample Unit Plan Worksheet

My advise to you:

- have procedures and systems in place for almost everything
- make decisions based on what's best for students
- stick to your IEP timeline, ask your special ed coordinator if you can get at least a half day to work on your IEP preps and have your inclusion classes covered
- don't let negative co-workers affect you
- read about how to teach students at their "level", differentiating instruction, other best teaching practices for special ed teachers
- join a professional learning network (online) for special education teachers
- surround yourself with positive people who can help you, collaborate with them on pursuing the mission and vision of the school
- have fun with your students and the people who work with you, stay positive
- consistency, consistency, consistency

Smile, you are doing a great job!! Enjoy the rest of the weekend...have that glass of wine while reading a good book ;-)

Maria Angala, NBCT
Washington DC = follow me on Twitter

**name changed to protect my colleague

Hello Maria,

I don't recall if I replied to you or not. :) I've had a very busy week this week. Thank you for the resources. I'm definitely going through the booklets. I could not access the lesson plan template or unit template again. I don't know why, but it didn't come up for me. That's okay. I'll find one somewhere. The ones I have from ODE are multiple pages long. They are very detailed and do allow you to put everything together in one big file. It's kind of nice, but can get tedious to fill out. I appreciate all the information you gave.

This week I have accomplished all of my IEP meetings held for the year. I will have 6 meetings for seniors and students at other schools by the end of the year, but those are short easy to do meetings. I also finished and organized and put together my alternate assessment binders. We got to have our fun cooking day finally. :) I had a student finish all of his work from last semester that was due in January so he could pass the class. It was a very busy and chaotic week, but I feel so good that now I get to focus on my instruction, how to meet all the students' needs with no aide, and grading. I appreciate the encouragement.

About IEPs in our district, we have it in the contract that we get to have 1 day to write IEPs and 1 for meetings for every 6 students on our caseload. That is helpful, but it was just not as helpful to me this year since IEP due dates and Alternate Assessment due dates were the same time.

Thank you for the encouragement. It's much appreciated.

- C.C.  (Ohio) -

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